Online Music – Apple Vs. Google Vs. Microsoft

Entertainment, it seems, is the next big area where the biggest of the technology giants shall be competing. Apple has, for a long time, enjoyed virtual monopoly in this segment with its iTunes service. However, that may not stay for a long time as we see Microsoft and Google gearing themselves up for the clash.

The modus operandi may not be the same for all the three companies, but we can say that all the three different strategies might work and time will tell how each of these companies will perform.

Apple’s iTunes needs no introduction. While Microsoft Zune may be an also-ran, the company’s latest announcement to launch an Bing entertainment service that will integrate the company’s search engine offering with its Zune music offering.

So, for instance, searching for “Songs by Lady Gaga” will show you this.

Bing Music Search

Quite clearly, the focus is on getting the users engage with content right on the website and go ahead and purchase the same from Zune. Bing enjoys integration with lyrics and music from a catalog of over 5 million songs. With a majority of users going online to look for music lyrics and purchases, this is definitely a market to tap.

Google did make some moves late last year with its Music OneBox (in association with Lala), but did not go much beyond. However, the company has made its intention clear to offer a full fledged music service soon. According to Scott Morrison from the Wall Street Journal, the company could be launching a music download service that is tied to the search engine later this year followed by an online subscription service in 2011. These are not lofty plans considering that rivals have already begun their implementation.

However, Microsoft can still go for the kill now. The company has at least a couple of months to position their search service as the destination to go for online music. If Bing does succeed in pulling online music seekers, then expect three major destinations for online music by the mid of next year.

A lot of consolidation may happen thereafter with startup services like Spotify in the fray too.

[via WSJ, Bing Blog]

New XBox 360 Automatic Shutdown Due To Overheating

Microsoft had recently launched the new smaller 250GB XBox 360. One refreshing piece of news is that the new XBox will no longer flash the “Red Ring of Death” – the ominous red ring that was displayed everytime something did not go well on the system.

Bad news is that this has only been replaced with a red dot that is displayed when there is a system failure on the XBox 360. Apparently, users are shown the following message when such a thing happens:

“The Xbox 360 is shutting down to protect the console from insufficient ventilation.
You can turn the console back on after the power light stops flashing.”

XBox 360 shut down

The new XBox will then automatically shutdown to prevent any potential mishap. This is so reminiscent of the Blue screen of death on Windows that gave users little choice but wait for a system restart. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

[via Kotaku]

Only 500 Microsoft Kin Sold Till Date?

What does Apple have that Microsoft doesn’t? Inarguably, a great marketing team. Don’t get me wrong, I still think the iPad is still just a little more than a glorified brick that offers little to no value. Yet, the Apple marketing team pulled it off.

Now rumors are doing the rounds that Microsoft has only managed to sell 500 Kin phones (both Kin One and Two combined) till date. This is a pretty unconfirmed rumor and needs to be taken with boatloads of skepticism. Other reports state that the sale numbers are at least in the lower end of 5 digit figures.

Nevertheless, the consensus is that Microsoft’s Kin line of phones may have just flopped. However, Verizon is more at fault than Microsoft in this case. The monthly costs are too high for a device that is not even a smartphone. Kin One and Two are priced at $50 and $100 respectively and Verizon mandates a minimum monthly purchase of $20 of data. Considering that the phones are mainly targeted at the teenagers, the cost may simply not be justified.

[via IntoMobile]

Bing Cashback To Be Replaced By Amazon Shopping?

Microsoft had recently announced that the company shall be wrapping up its Bing Cashback program come July 30 this year. The Cashback program incentivized Bing users for shopping at the site by offering cash rewards. With Bing closing down its shopping site, rumors are now doing the rounds that Bing may soon outsource its shopping link to Amazon.

Ever since the announcement of Bing Cashback hit the news, we have heard that Amazon has been aggressively pursuing Microsoft to outsource the shopping tab to Amazon and in return earn a commission on sales carried out through their referrals.

Talks are said to be in early stages and there is no way to confirm the speculations. Nevertheless, this appears to be not just a logical step, but also a masterful one at that, given that Google has been slowly building its relationship with retailers and subsequently their ecommerce function. We had reported recently that Google is testing a CPA ad model with select retailers that will allow advertisers to pay for select action and not just an ad-click.

The ecommerce scene is beginning to heat up once again. It’s sad however that eBay continues to be elusive in the headlines.

[via Business Insider]

Microsoft Kinect Launch Date In November

Microsoft has announced that its latest gaming-plus-entertainment device, the Kinect will launch in November this year. The price has not been announced and it is expected that an announcement regarding this is likely in a few more hours from now.

Microsoft Kinect, formerly known as Project Natal shall be Redmond’s foray into the launch of a device that will not only offer users to play a controller-free gaming experience but will also allow additional entertainment experiences like video chat and picture sharing.

The name of the new project was unknown for a long time though we had stumbled upon the Kinect name last month in one of the trademark applications filed by Microsoft.

[via MCV UK]

Microsoft Kinect – Formerly Known As Project Natal

Microsoft has finally unveiled Project Natal. At the E3 kick-off party yesterday, the company unveiled the official name of the much touted “controller-free gaming and entertainment experience” from Microsoft – Kinect.

Wait, does that sound familiar? Yes, it does. GoRumors had written about the Kinect in early May when Microsoft had applied for a trademark on the name. Back then, it was the season of the Kin phones which made me speculate if it was a series of Kin peripherals that would enable users to “connect” to other devices. Too bad, I didn’t think of Project Natal then.

So is Kinect all that we had speculated earlier? Well, Microsoft has demoed several features of their new project – games like Star Wars and Tiger Petting, a video chat application, photo sharing to mention a few. No information on price or launch date is known.

Update : Microsoft Kinect to launch in November

[via Engadget]

No Windows XP On Netbooks From October

Microsoft has made a couple of important announcements with respect to their older Windows XP desktop platform. First is the news that support for Windows XP Service Pack 2 shall end on July 13, 2010. Users wishing to continue receiving support must soon upgrade to Windows XP SP 3 to continue receiving support till April 2014.

Another important news is that Microsoft has sent reminders to OEMs to stop pre-installing Microsoft Windows XP on new netbooks beginning October of this year. The move is aimed at migrating customers to a newer Windows 7 platform. With Microsoft’s focus moving towards its latest OS, continuing the distribution of its older XP platform may lead to defragmentation worries in the future.

However, not everyone is happy. OEMs are worried that replacing Windows XP with Windows 7 may increase the cost of the final product that will eventually hit them on the sale volumes. Also, Windows 7 will require the use of more advance processors which will eventually drive prices up. That could be disastrous for the netbook segment which is already feeling the pinch due to the arrival of tablets in the market.

[via ZDNet]

New Windows Mobile Based Nokia Smartphone In Works?

Is a new Windows Mobile 6.5 (or so) based Nokia smartphone in the works? This is a rumor that does not have too much of backing, yet is interesting in the backdrop of a leaked internal presentation that shows “Windows” as one of the platforms that Nokia is working on.

Nokia Windows Smartphone plans

For one, this could as well mean Windows Mobile 7 and not the older classic Windows Mobile OS. And that appears more likely. However, with lack of information in this regard, we will just have to wait and watch if Nokia decides to pursue with WinMo 6.5 one more time. What do you think? Possible?

[via Softpedia]

Hulu On Xbox 360 – Announcement At E3

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, is all set to launch in less than two weeks from now and there are huge expectations of the event already. One announcement that is highly anticipated from Microsoft is about Project Natal – which is ¬†rumored to be called the “Wave”.

Another interesting revelation, or rather speculation, is that Microsoft may announce the integration of Hulu to Xbox 360. Xbox users can integrate the Hulu offering to their Xbox dashboard in much the same way as they do with Netflix which will allow them to access the wide catalog of TV shows from the popular video streaming service.

It is however not expected to come for free. The source that GearLive spoke to has indicated that there will be a subscription fee for access. And speculation is that it may be on a monthly/quarterly access basis.

Lots of interesting news are coming with respect to Microsoft Xbox 360. Last month, we had written about possibilities of ¬†live TV coming to Xbox 360 in 2011. We’ll have to wait and see how many of these rumors turn out to be true.

[via Gear Live]

Zune Pass Subscription Cost To Come Down

Zune Pass, the popular subscription service that allows Zune users to stream music on their Zune portable player may soon see a price cut. An indication towards this was offered by Terry Farrell, Senior Product Manager at Microsoft.

The move comes after Rhapsody, one of the prime rivals for Microsoft in the online music streaming segment announced a price cut on their service which saw users bring down their monthly payment from $14.99 to $10. Microsoft may now match the subscription pricing offered by Rhapsody.

The Zune service, which is now reported to be owned by 2% of American customers, is expected to become available on Windows Phone 7 based smartphones that will release later this year.

[via Business Week]